The house of a Christian family was found ransacked in Hadgadwa, a village in the district of Latehar, which features in the Indian state of Jharkhand. Chhatru Munda and ChintamaniDevi returned home to their village, only to find the asbestos sheets which served as a roof, taken off their house and used by a family that lived nearby. With the monsoons in full swing, and no roof to protect their home, 2 walls within the house were damaged. The home had also been looted.
When Chhatru Munda and his wife confronted the locals, who had robbed his roof, they seemed undeterred. They dauntlessly challenged them to take the matter to the village council asking them to be present for a meeting with the Village head man on Sunday, the 14th of June 2020. Chhatru Munda and his wife left the crafty locals alone, knowing that there was a big possibility of them facing the wrath of the Village head man if they attempted to address any issue with him. “We abandoned any plans of pursuing justice, for the sake of peace and from fear of being beaten up again.” said their son Sanjay Munda.
Back in 2012, Chhatru Munda and his family adopted Christianity. They have 3 young children, 2 sons and a daughter. “My father has 3 brothers and we used to live on family property in our individual homes. When my older cousin got to know that we had put our faith in Jesus Christ, he began to harass us as he was being instigated by the village fanatics with the help of the village council.” Sanjay told Persecution Relief.
Chintamani Devi told Persecution Relief that she had been severely beaten up and harassed many times. “They called for a meeting with the Village council, and in the presence of the Village head man, local religious fanatics beat us up because we refused to forsake Jesus Christ.” She said. Chintamani further added that the fanatics cunningly resorted to a devious route of instigating the village council to boycott and excommunicate them under the pretext of religious intolerance in order to snatch and illicitly acquire their inheritance.
Even though the family initially refused to leave their home and land behind, the local fanatics tormented them to such an extent that they were ultimately left with no choice but to move away. Desperate to find shelter, the family found a place which they could live on rent which was around 5 kms away from their village. “We soon adjusted to our new rental home, and used to occasionally go and check on our house back at the village which was under lock and key.” Said Sanjay who is just 18 years old.
However, the Covid-19 crisis and the nation-wide lockdown proved to be unfavourable for the family. “We lost work and were going through a bad financial crisis. Our situation was so bad that we were unable to pay the house rent for many months and were eventually asked to leave.” explained Chintamani Devi.
Homeless and deprived, the family was left with no other option but to go back to their home and village, not knowing what to expect. Unfortunately, they were not only shocked at what they saw, but were also brashly and indirectly threatened by the same people who destroyed and looted their home.
The family are presently back at the rented place and have nowhere else to go. “The village head man is biased towards us because we are Christians, so we would be inviting trouble if we make a complaint against the culprits” said Sanjay. He said that they are going through a very challenging time and are completely clueless and anxious about the future. The Persecution Relief State coordinator Mariyosh Joseph, informed us about the incident as the family are members of the same Church he attends.
Since January 2020, Persecution Relief has chronicled and served 37 cases involving Christians being boycotted and excommunicated for their faith, especially in states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. We hear about so many Christians being harassed and beaten, some even attacked with bows, arrows and knives while some were pelted with stones. In most of these attacks women and children are not spared. Recently a 3-year-old boy was beaten by fanatics so cruelly that his ear began to bleed. A couple of cases involved aged and elderly people being beaten and attacked. Women are openly humiliated in public while the goons show no sense of regret for their foolish and unreasonable actions.
These harmless and vulnerable people, who in reality pose no threat to their communities become an easy target for religious fanatics who are scarcely scattered and found in almost all villages across the country. It’s no secret how even a couple of religious fanatics manage to instigate naïve villagers against their very own. The hate that is injected into their minds is so destructive that they hunt and drive out Christian families from their own homes, making them flee for their lives in the middle of the night into jungles or go into hiding.
In the 1st Quarter of 2020, we recorded 187 cases. Between 1st Quarter of 2016 to 1st Quarter of 2020, there has been a rise of 128.04 % of Hate Crimes against Christians all across the country. In 2019 alone, Persecution Relief has recorded the maximum number of 527 cases compared to 447 cases in 2018, 440 in 2017 and 330 in 2016. From January 2016 to March 2020, Persecution Relief has recorded 1961 cases of Hate crimes against Christians in India.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has downgraded India to the lowest ranking, ‘Countries of Particular Concern’(CPC) In its 2020 report. ranked India’s persecution severity at “Tier 2” along with Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the past seven years, India has risen from No. 31 to No. 10 on Open Doors’ World Watch List, ranking just behind Iran in persecution severity.
Shibu Thomas is Founder of Persecution Relief